Ricoh undertook a “10,000 person restructuring” in 2011, using the usual method in Japan of trying to force into early retirement or transfer to subsidiaries their unwanted staff. This resulted in a judgement in the Tokyo courts in favour of two Japanese Ricoh employees on their claim that they had been unfairly forced to transfer to a subsidiary.
The Nikkei Business magazine, in its recent series on the successes and failures of Japanese cross-border M&A links this domestic issue to Ricoh’s acquisition of the US office equipment distributor Ikon Office Solutions in 2008 for $1.6bn. Ricoh acquired Ikon in order to compete with Canon, particularly in trying to enter the office tablet and projector markets in developed countries. However, just as with Nippon Sheet Glass/Pilkington and Daiichi Sankyo/Ranbaxy, the sudden change in operating environment from the Lehman Shock meant that Ricoh’s resulting bloated structure with many overlaps following the acquisition became a far more acute problem.
As the Nikkei points out, Japanese companies need to recognise that following a major M&A, their own Japan headquarters needs to change its structure in order to remain strong in everchanging global business environments.
On that point, during my recent visit to Japan, I was surprised how often the idea of setting up a separate, global headquarters, possibly not even based in Japan, was brought up by Japanese executives at the various blue chip companies I visited.
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